A DECADE or so back some 120 residents of Port Stephens (including three teachers at Tanilba Bay School) fell victim to the Ross River virus.
This disease can be hard to diagnose as the symptoms often mimic other medical conditions. A specific test is needed. A fever, muscle and joint pains,a rash and fatigue are often indicators.
Newspaper reports have it that this year there has been a five-fold increase in cases in NSW. But where does it come from and how is it spread?
Despite a long dry summer, mosquitoes, which transmit the virus, are still breeding in the salt water marshes created by the Christmas king tides.
The main hosts of the Ross River virus are kangaroos and wallabies. Very few of these marsupials are found in the urban
fringes of Tilligerry but the culprits out this way are most probably possums. They are a found in and around homes as
people encourage their breeding with 'possum boxes' and feed them. Backyard gardens attract them.
John Clayton from Mallabula remembers falling victim to the Ross River virus.
“I well remember feeling the sting of a mosquito bite on the back of my neck. Three days later, a debilitating fatigue
overwhelmed me. My GP said that it was probably 'flu' but it persisted. I also suffered muscle and joint pains.”
“After reading about the symptoms, I asked my doctor to test me for it. The diagnosis proved positive. I felt unbelievably
tired for over two years after that but slowly regained my strength. The good news is that it can't be spread from person to person and I'm immune from future infection.”
So bad is the possum plague in New Zealand that without a government eradication program they estimate that the current 28million population would grow to some 50million!
You can buy possum meat. Local butcher Ron Curry could order it in for you along with crocodile, camel, buffalo, kangaroo and mutton bird.
Traps are effective in catching possums but rules governing their release mean that it will make little difference to their overall population.
The best way to guard against Ross River is to wear loose fitting garments, use an insect repellent and don't venture outside around dawn and dusk. It would also help to get rid of stagnant water found in old tyres, buckets and containers around your property.
By Geoff WALKER